Challenging saber, p.4
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       Challenging Saber, p.4

           S. E. Smith
 
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  The scanner showed that she was almost there. Turning, he patiently waited as the sound of her air bike resonated through the house. Time seemed to crawl to a stop as he waited for her to enter the house.

  “Hey, Saber, I’m here,” she hollered as she stepped into the house.

  “I’m here,” he replied in a quiet voice.

  “Hey, what are we…,” her voice faded when she saw what he was wearing. “You’re leaving,” she whispered, staring at him in shock.

  “Yes, Dagger and I have been assigned a new mission,” he said.

  “When?” She asked, setting her backpack down on the floor and walking toward him.

  Saber clenched his fists to keep from reaching out and grabbing her. Taylor had no idea that her every emotion showed what she was thinking and feeling. He didn’t want her to know. He could see in her eyes what her heart already knew, but her mind had yet to register, that she belonged to him.

  “In an hour,” he responded in a rough voice when he saw the panic in her eyes.

  “An hour! How long have you known?” She demanded.

  “A week after our return,” he admitted, wincing when a murderous expression crossed her face.

  “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” She snapped, folding her arms across her chest and tapping her foot.

  “I didn’t want you to worry,” he said, defensively. “Hunter… felt it best to tell you in person,” he added.

  “Oh, he did, did he? And, you thought waiting until an hour before you left was the best way to break the news to me? Where are you going? How long are you going to be gone? What am I supposed to do while you’re gone? Argh! I can’t believe you waited until an hour before you leave to tell me all this!” She angrily growled.

  Saber turned and warily watched as she stepped around him and stomped out into the garden. Releasing a sigh, he followed her. He rubbed his chest when he saw her hand lift and brush impatiently at her cheek.

  “I should have told you sooner,” he admitted. “I just… I didn’t want it to stop you from coming over.”

  Taylor sniffed and glared at him. “I’m going to paint your house pink while you’re gone,” she said.

  A look of distaste washed across Saber’s face. “Pink?” He repeated with a look of doubt on his face.

  “Inside AND out,” she replied with a mutinous nod.

  “Ah, Taylor, I thought we agreed to use more natural colors,” he reminded her.

  “I’m also going to learn how to sew and put lace curtains up in the windows,” she added, shooting him a piercing glare.

  Saber swallowed. “The windows already darken automatically. Besides, I do not believe lace provides adequate coverage… though, if you think they are what you want, I guess they can be installed,” he added hastily when her mouth tightened.

  “I think gnomes in the garden would be good,” she stated.

  “Gnomes?” Saber replied in confusion.

  “Nasty little beasts that throw mud at you and dig holes in your flowerbed, and steal your valuables,” she replied with a nod and a wave of her hand at the tangled bushes.

  “Gnomes,” Saber repeated, looking at the garden with a grimace. “You are very upset.”

  Taylor turned and patted Saber’s chest. “You haven’t seen upset, yet,” she promised, walking back into the house. “You’d better come back, old man. If you don’t, not only will I come after you, I’ll have carte blanche with your house until you do! Oh, one more thing,” Taylor said, turning to stare at Saber.

  “Only one?” Saber asked skeptically with a raised eyebrow.

  His arms automatically opened when Taylor suddenly ran and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him like she would never let him go. He closed his eyes, holding her tightly against him. His hands moved down to her ass so he could pick her up. An intense craving flashed through him when she wrapped her legs around his waist and buried her face against his neck. He could feel her lips moving against his skin.

  “I mean it, Saber,” she whispered. “You’d better come back to me.”

  The powerful wave of longing struck him, and struck him hard. He knew without a doubt that he would come back. He had to; it was where he was leaving his heart. He was about to tell Taylor that when she bit his ear.

  “Ouch! Shewta! What did you do that for?” He exclaimed, releasing her so he could grab his throbbing ear.

  “For being such a turd about not telling me,” she snapped, turning away from him. “If you ever do that again, I guarantee I’ll come up with something a hell of a lot more painful,” she warned as she bent and picked up her backpack. “You’d better come back, Saber!” She threatened before walking out the door.

  Saber shook his head and massaged his stinging ear as a huge grin curved his lips. Taylor was staking her claim on him. He gently touched his ear, wondering if she had drawn blood again. Given how tender it was, she had definitely left her mark.

  Chapter 5

  “Hey, old man,” Taylor said with a grin, two and a half months later.

  Saber gave her that wary look that he seemed to always have on his face when she spoke to him lately. She knew why, too! It was probably all the pictures she was sending him of his house.

  “I’m not that old. What have you done to the house now?” He asked, ignoring the chuckles of the men behind him. “Hold on a moment.”

  Taylor watched as Saber stood up. She caught a flash of what looked like the galley of the warship. In the background, she could hear the other warriors complaining to Saber.

  “Hey, guys!” She called out and waved.

  “Hello, Taylor!” The men yelled before they vanished and Saber’s scowling face replaced the upside down hallway.

  “You know they are enjoying this far too much, don’t you?” Saber complained. “They are constantly teasing me now. It is very unwarrior-like.”

  Taylor rolled over onto her back and lifted the tablet in her hand. She laughed when Saber grinned back at her. Pulling the tablet closer, she pressed a kiss to the center of the screen.

  “Does that make it better?” She teased.

  Saber groaned and shook his head. She blinked when everything suddenly went dark. In the background, she could hear him curse before he muttered for the lights. It took a moment for her to recognize where he was sitting.

  “Are you in a closet?” She asked, rolling again and looking down at the tablet.

  “Are you rolling all over the bed again?” He retorted.

  Taylor giggled. “Yes,” she replied with a sigh. “I miss you.”

  Saber’s gaze softened. “I miss you, as well, little warrior. How are your new classes going?” He asked.

  “Better,” she admitted. “I like this new school. The kids are nicer. Oh, did I tell you that Buzz transferred over this past week? He says their science curriculum is better than the old school.”

  “Buzz!” Saber snapped before he glared at the door when it opened. “I’m having a meeting!”

  “My apologies, warrior,” the man stuttered. “I just needed more cleaner.”

  Taylor watched as Saber reached behind him and grabbed a bottle off the shelf and handed it to the man. He ordered the man to shut the door before blowing a deep, frustrated breath. She shook her head at him.

  “You know, you’re in his closet. You might be a little nicer,” she teased.

  “There is very limited privacy on this warship,” Saber complained. “Now, explain to me why this Buzz transferred to your school. I thought Hunter said you were doing better. Why do you still need Buzz around if you are doing better?”

  “I am doing better, thanks to Buzz,” Taylor retorted. “The school is nice, but it is really cool to have someone that I know there, too. I still get to see Charma and Bronze’s grandkids, but it isn’t the same. They have a busy life, and well, I’m still trying to figure out how to get back into the swing of things.”

  She knew that Saber understood what she
was saying. They talked twice a week, the maximum amount allowed. She counted down the days until she could contact him.

  “I’m proud of you, Taylor,” Saber murmured with a sigh. “There have been a lot of changes in your life, yet you never give up.”

  Taylor propped her chin on her hand and gazed down at Saber. “Giving up meant dying back on Earth,” she said in a soft voice. “Jesse, Jordan, and I swore we’d never do that, as long as we were together.”

  “So, what have you done to the house this week? Are the walls in my bedroom still that horrible neon pink?” He asked with a grimace of distaste.

  “Nope, I changed it,” she admitted. “How do you feel about purple? It’s supposed to be the color of royalty, you know. Here’s a picture of it.”

  She laughed when Saber groaned at the hideous, dark purple color. He was definitely going to hide the painting wand when he returned. She had no doubt about that. Ever since she discovered that all she had to do was point it at a wall, choose a color, and it would change, the inside of his house had been a virtual color wheel.

  “I’m not sure I care for that color,” he finally admitted. “I hate to say this, but the pink was slightly better.”

  Taylor released a sigh. “I thought so, too,” she said.

  “I see that you still have the curtains up,” he commented. “They are very… womanly.”

  “You should see the garden! The Gnomes are multiplying like rabbits and have taken over the patio area,” she warned, sending him another picture.

  “You are right,” Saber reflected. “They are nasty looking little creatures. I’ll make sure I return home with all my weapons fully loaded.”

  “When are you coming home?” Taylor asked in a voice filled with longing. “I’m only working on the stuff I know how to do. Scout and Bronze have been helping some as well. I’ve got most of the garden cleared out.”

  Saber leaned back against the shelves. “Hunter, Dagger, Edge, and I are leaving for the planet tomorrow. If all goes well, I should return by the end of next month,” he explained before he pursed his lips together. “Our time is up.”

  “I know,” Taylor whispered, looking at the timer. “Be careful.”

  “I will,” he promised.

  “Oh, and Saber, I want you to know…,” her voice faded and she bit her lip.

  “What is it, Taylor?” Saber asked, a frown creasing his brow.

  “I just want you to know that I love you,” she whispered just as the signal cut off. “I love you, old man.”

  Rolling on the bed again, she held the tablet to her chest. She wasn’t sure if he heard her confession of love. She hoped so. If he hadn’t, well, she’d tell him again the next time she talked to him.

  “Yep,” she whispered, staring up at the ceiling. “You’re mine, big guy.”

  *.*.*

  The next day, Taylor stood in the shadows of the kitchen, listening to the man who had come to the house. She could hear Jesse’s soft denial and Shana’s voice trying to soothe her. She couldn’t hide any longer when she heard Shana mention Saber’s name. Stepping around the bar in the kitchen, she walked over to stand next to Jesse and Jordan.

  “If you would all have a seat, I will update you on the information I received on the way over,” the man said.

  Taylor reached down and gripped Jesse’s left hand. She didn’t want to sit down. She wanted to yell and scream. They had lost so much in their lives already. There was no way that life could be so cruel as to take the men that they loved away from them. Hadn’t losing their mom and dad been bad enough? Hell, they had lost their whole world!

  But, we found a new one, Taylor thought as she gazed around the table. And a new family. Please… Please, don’t take it away from us.

  “Unexpected fighting broke out in an area previously thought to be secure,” the man said.

  Taylor listened as he explained what happened. Deep down, she refused to believe any of them were dead. They couldn’t be, especially Saber. She had just talked to him the night before. She had told him that she loved him. He couldn’t be dead. He just couldn’t. She glanced at Jordan before looking down at Jesse’s pale face.

  “What of Dagger?” Jordan asked in a barely audible voice.

  Taylor glanced at Jordan again when the man answered. A searing numbness swept through her. She was wrong. Once again, Death had come to visit her family.

  *.*.*

  Taylor sat on the swing outside. Her foot barely touched the ground, but it was enough to give her a small push as she stared up at the sky. She swore she’d stay there all night if that was what it took.

  “What are you searching for, Taylor?” Scout asked, coming to sit on the bench that wrapped around the tree.

  “A falling star,” she replied, not looking at him for fear of missing it.

  Scout turned on the seat so that he could see the stars. Taylor could hear the confusion in his voice. A sad smile curved her lips when he finally looked back at her.

  “I’m afraid I do not understand how a star can fall,” he finally admitted.

  “They don’t really,” Taylor replied in a soft voice. “We call meteors falling stars back home. If you see one, you are supposed to wish upon them and if you are lucky, your wish will come true.”

  “Ah, yes, I am familiar with meteors,” Scout said with a nod, turning to stare back up at the stars again. “And what would you wish for?”

  “I can’t tell you,” she whispered, tears burning her eyes. “If I tell you, it won’t come true.”

  She blinked rapidly when she saw Scout rise from his seat and walk over to her. She nodded and scooted to the side so he could sit down next to her on the swing. A trembling sigh escaped her when he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and began to slowly rock them.

  “From the day I met you, you captured my heart,” Scout admitted. “I love your sisters just as much, but you reminded me of all the things a warrior fights for.”

  “What do you mean?” She asked as she leaned her head against his chest.

  “Jesse knows what it is to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders,” Scout explained. “She is tough on the outside, but feels the pain for those that she believes she must protect alone. Jordan is different. In her eyes, I see the birth of the universe. She is an old soul. One who has lived over and over and over again, but who never quite forgot her previous life. She sees both the beauty and horrors in the world around her and fights to keep the balance.”

  Taylor swallowed. “What do you see when you look at me?” She asked in a soft, trembling voice.

  “I see the birth of a star,” Scout murmured. “I see beauty and passion and love. I see curiosity and innocence, but most of all I see a force that won’t be denied what she wishes for the most. You are what a warrior fights for, Taylor. You are the hope for a better world.”

  “I love him,” she whispered. “Oh, Scout, I love him so much that it hurts.”

  Scout hugged Taylor. “As he loves you, little star,” he murmured. “Look! Make your wish, Taylor. Hold it close to your heart.”

  Taylor looked up in time to see a meteor streak across the sky. She held her breath and made a wish as it flashed across the heavens above. Biting her lip when it faded, she turned her head into Scout’s chest and cried.

  I wish that Saber would come home like he promised, she thought.

  Chapter 6

  A month later, Saber rose up, reaching for the light of consciousness, only to sink back down into the dark pit that refused to release him. The only rational thought that flashed through his mind was the knowledge that at least the unbearable pain was finally gone. Even that thought didn’t last for very long.

  It took him more than a dozen attempts to finally reach the surface. The first thing that came back was his hearing. He could hear the quiet voices. They sounded like they were far off at first, but each time, they came closer and closer. He was able to pick out a word or two that stuc
k in his brain, playing over and over like a broken vidcom.

  “Shattered…”

  “Should amputate…”

  “Not worth saving…”

  “No, you will…”

  He heard Hunter’s voice. His friend sounded angry. Another rumble of voices, but it was too difficult to piece them together.

  “Live…”

  “Maybe… Not sure yet…”

  “I’m not leaving,” a young voice said. “Get lost or I’ll kick your balls to the next star system.”

  “I don’t care! I know he can hear me,” she argued. “I’ll eat when I get hungry.”

  “No,” he tried to argue, but his throat was dry.

  He tried to lick his lips, but it took too much effort and he slipped down into the darkness again. It seemed like an eternity passed before he could find the strength to climb back up the slippery walls. He refused to give up this time. Someone was touching him. He could feel soft, smooth hands running up and down his leg. It took a moment for him to realize that he could actually feel the touch.

  “My teacher showed me this technique,” the voice was saying. “He said it helped with circulation and helped slow the deterioration of the muscles.”

  “Taylor, you’ve been here since early this morning,” a soft voice chided. “You need to take care of yourself.”

  “I’m almost done,” Taylor replied.

  “Take…,” Saber forced out.

  The hands on him froze and were removed. A small moan escaped him when they disappeared. He moved his lips, trying to form the words.

  “What?” A beautiful voice whispered next to his ear.

  A sigh escaped him when he felt the warm hands touch his face. He instinctively moved his head. He wanted to feel them against his skin. He swallowed, trying to force some moisture into his throat.

  “Take care… of… your… self,” he finally forced out before the edges of darkness swirled around him again. He didn’t want to sink back into the lonely pit. He wanted to break free and search for the face that belonged to the hands. “I don’t…”

 
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